Wonderful Things

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. If I’m being honest, the last few weeks have been really hard mentally for me. Coming back to America was GREAT–getting to see people I hadn’t seen in months…eating dinner at the kitchen table with my family…squeezes and hugs from people I know…Chickfila…I mean, what’s not to love?

But my first five weeks back in America have also been just as hard as my first five weeks in Thailand were. Some days I wake up and find myself crying and I don’t even know why. Reading the Bible is this different experience of aching and hurting and finding its words soothing like they never have before. Sometimes I feel lonely, and instead of reaching out to other people and trying to get involved in things, I just want to spend more time by myself, which makes it worse. It’s reverse culture shock in a different way than I thought it would be, and it’s rough sometimes to realize how upset I am at myself for not being completely normal. 

The past couple days have had a lot of ups and downs that I’ve really kept to myself for the most part. But today I am flying to Portland to visit my dear friend Elaini for two weeks and as I was praying this morning, I just kept thanking God for how He gives us things exactly when we need them.

And so, in anticipation of the fun I’m going to have in the next fourteen days and in an effort to daily remind myself of how beautiful this life is, no matter what season we find ourselves in, I made a list this morning of wonderful blessings I get to experience in this body, with these people, at this stage of life…

 

 

And perhaps the best thing of all is finally realizing that the list is never ending because you’ll always see something new, you’ll always have something else, and you’ll always find one moment more

 

-Rachel

Pictures from My Summer

Back before I left for Thailand, I did a mini poll asking what you guys would like to see more of on the blog. I was shocked and kinda pleasantly flattered to hear that a lot of you are really curious to see more pics from my everyday life. (What–my life is interesting to someone???)

So in an effort to show you some of the less-edited, more candid moments in my life, here’s a quick roundup of pictures from the last month back in America. It’s a fun mix of nice Nikon photos and VSCO-edited iPhone pics. It’s kinda hard to believe I’ve been home for almost five weeks now… The summer may be drawing to an end but hopefully my adventures this year are still only halfway through.

“As I sit here I’m surrounded by these priceless memories // I don’t have to think about it // There’s no place I’d rather be…”

-Rachel

An Open Letter to My Body

Dear body,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. And not in a good, “Wow, you look amazing. I should really go pull out my nice black dress” kind of way. I’ve actually been giving you a hard time. For a skeleton that’s never cracked, skin that’s barely stretched, and muscles that hardly ache, I’ve been completely unfair in my attitude toward you. To say I’ve been ungrateful is an understatement. I’ve hated you and ignored you and tried desperately to cover up parts of you that I secretly was ashamed of.

I came home from Asia about seven pounds heavier because of all the rice + MSG I’d been consuming for four months and after a couple weeks even I was tired of how many times I complained about my body and made derogatory comments about myself in front of my younger sisters. Body shaming is becoming a bigger deal in our culture, and I’d rather my younger sisters look up to me as someone who makes mistakes but corrects them by choosing to be active, healthy, and happy than someone who complains and compares herself to rest of the world. Even if that means eating a piece of cake or baking homemade Poptarts.

Bodies are meant to be enjoyed, treasured, and taken care of–not criticized, shamed, and abused.

I’ve really hated you for far too long. I’m sick of hating you. I’ve realized by now that you and I are stuck together. Quite literally. You complete me. Also quite literally.

So I’m taking a moment to publicly apologize.

*

Dear eyes, I’m not sorry that you’re brown. I do regret every time I wished you were blue or green or hazel. There is absolutely no shame in brown eyes. Nothing wrong with dark soft pools on a face like mine. You’ll hear no more complaining from me.

Dear hair, I’ve accepted the fact you’ll always curl. I’ll love you in the rain, even when you spring up and cling to my forehead and give me a little halo of fuzz. I’ll rock my volume like an eighties prom queen and will stop googling “Jane Birkin hair” and making myself jealous.

Dear lips, I’ve completely forgotten that time someone called you thin. And I’m completely over feeling like I have to be a younger version of Angelina Jolie for someone to want to kiss you. You are pretty great all on your own and you’re going to make some guy super happy one day, thin or not-so-thin.

Dear teeth, okay so you’ll never be completely straight. Two years of braces and you’ll still have your curves and edges. But you can bite into an apple pretty well and that chip you suffered that time I knocked my chin on my sister’s head is completely invisible to everyone else. I promise you, no one is ever staring at your teeth. Unless you eat spinach or something, in which case all bets are off, you traitor.

Dear skin, it’s okay to be pale. Pigment doesn’t make you beautiful. You’re not defined by the color or smoothness of your family, friends, or the women in romantic comedies. Even when you freckle and burn and peel, you are still smooth, warm, and completely mine.

Dear legs, no one cares how short you are. I absolutely reject the idea that I can’t wear shorts because you aren’t long enough. That my attractiveness lies in my ability to fascinate men with my never ending stilts. You’re white but you’re strong. And I refuse to be embarrassed by the legs that can hike up waterfalls, spin in heels, and curl up in a leather brown recliner.

Dear stomach, I’m tired of feeling too self-conscious to write about you. Tired of not wanting anyone to know about the little scar by my belly button that I keep hidden. Sick of the conversations with friends about the soft tummies under our sports bras. I don’t like thinking that I have to have a wooden board for a ribcage for people to find me beautiful. You’re soft but you’re nice.

*

Body, I know that you’re not perfect. Gosh, I know that fact so well. I know every dent and curve and scar and fold on you. But I also know that you are beautiful. You are beautiful because of your flaws. You’re amazing because you break and peel and stretch, and yet grow on. There’s a softness in the edges. A strength in every weakness. A raw and hidden beauty in the fact that you are mine and you are me and I am beautiful.

I do want to protect you. I want to nourish you and take care of you and help you stay strong forever.

But I’m tired of hating you in your flaws. I’m sick and sorry of every derogatory word I’ve said and thought I’ve harbored in the last few weeks. You’re not a dress size or a body shape or a diagram in a textbook.

You are strong bones and smooth skin and long limbs and dark brows with soft spots and rough edges and everything in between.

And you are lovely.

-Rachel

 

When You’re Seventeen

I missed my sister Hannah’s seventeenth birthday because I was still living in Thailand back in June. So once I got the chance to come home and photograph her properly to document this new page in her life, she was already seventeen and two months.

I tried to remember what I was like at seventeen and two months. My second book had just come out less than a year earlier. I had spent the summer in Key West with my family then I came home and had my senior portraits taken by my best friend’s mom. I remember feeling so grown up. Last year of high school. The future on the horizon. I remember thinking that seventeen might finally be the year I fell in love or traveled to another country or figured out what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

That makes me laugh now because none of those things happened when I was seventeen. Some of them I’m still waiting to happen.

But seventeen is a beautiful age. No longer a child, yet not quite an adult.

-Rachel